Maybe the best wrestle in making a futuristic design is that the long run is a consistently shifting goal. Whether or not one is designing a watch, a automobile, a chair, or a constructing, what would possibly look cutting-edge at this time will virtually definitely not replicate what the imaginative and prescient of the long run will likely be 5 years from now. Due to this, many fans have a tendency towards extra conservative, “timeless” kinds, however lots of the most intriguing ideas come up when a designer’s imaginative and prescient of the long run has endurance far past the context of its creation. There are flashes of this within the present watch market, with manufacturers like MB&F recontextualizing ideas from the swoopy, chrome-laden Nineteen Thirties imaginative and prescient of the long run with its experimental haute horlogerie designs. In my very own opinion, nevertheless, nothing matches the colourful, optimistic, and deeply stylized attract of the Area Age design motion of the ‘60s and early ‘70s, and maybe no different watch higher encapsulates the appear and feel of this faculty of design higher than this circa-1970 Hamilton Fontainebleau.
Area Age design can hint its roots again to the late ‘50s when designers corresponding to Eero Saarinen started to experiment with the (on the time) cutting-edge plastic and steel supplies developed as a byproduct of the Area Race. These supplies had been mixed with rounded, Pop Artwork-esque varieties and hanging main coloration palettes to create a stark departure from the jet-inspired, chrome-trim futurism of the previous decade. By the mid-‘60s, the type had come into its personal, with inside designers like Eero Arnio, Joe Colombo, Peter Ghyczy, Verner Panton, and Raphael Raffel, automotive designers together with Invoice Mitchell and Marcello Gandini, trend homes corresponding to Pierre Cardin, and well-liked leisure from “Star Trek” to the 007 franchise working collectively to affect a uniquely splashy imaginative and prescient of issues to come back. Watch manufacturers had been keen to leap on this stylistic motion, as nicely, however maybe no different watchmaker embraced the look as totally as Hamilton.
Within the late ‘60s, Hamilton was in a state of flux. The historic American model was within the midst of a gradual transition from its conventional location in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Bienne, Switzerland, and its place within the trade was shifting because it acquired the Buren model in 1966. It additionally shaped a (traditionally underappreciated) a part of the Challenge 99 Consortium with Heuer, Breitling, and Dubois-Dépraz, contributing to the joint effort to develop the (arguably) world’s first computerized chronograph motion, the Calibre 11/Chronomatic. All this speedy change led to a artistic setting ripe for experimentation, and Hamilton was wanting to push ahead with a brand new avant-garde visible language. This new company perspective was given an opportunity to shine on the worldwide stage in 1968 when Hamilton was approached by legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick to develop an idea timepiece for 2001: A Area Odyssey. Though the cuff-style five-time-zone design was featured within the movie’s iconic house station scene alongside different Area Age design icons like the brilliant pink Artifort Djinn Chair, the watch itself was far past the manufacturing capability of the late ‘60s and Hamilton as a substitute capitalized on the movie look with the completely different, however no much less futuristic, Odyssee 2001 three-hander.
Given how cutting-edge the Calibre 11/Chronomatic motion was upon its debut in 1969, showcasing it with an equally state-of-the-art watch design was a pure transfer. Heuer, after all, approached its a part of the design problem with the emblematic square-cased Monaco, however Hamilton turned to the Odyssee 2001 for its inspiration. Hamilton designer Ulrich Nydegger mixed the silver foremost dial, black outer dial floor, and wide-faceted indices with a good wilder oval form, impressed by the well-known French palace of Fontainebleau (in addition to the newly constructed and equally formed Fontainebleau Lodge in Miami). The ensuing watch would really feel simply as dwelling within the Pan Am spaceport lounge of 2001: A Area Odyssey because it did within the watch market of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and it stays one of the vital hanging sporting experiences for any classic chronograph.
Though the Hamilton Fontainebleau’s chrome steel case appears imposingly massive on paper at 47mm-wide and 14mm-thick, in actuality, the watch wears impressively nicely as a consequence of its scant 40mm lug-to-lug distance. There are few different instances that mix this mixture of big-watch wrist presence and small-watch consolation so successfully, and the tapering flying saucer-style aspect profile ensures that a lot of the case thickness is hidden on the wrist, as nicely.
However the dial is the place the Hamilton Fontainebleau really shines. Naturally, the idea of becoming a round foremost dial inside a non-circular case just isn’t distinctive to this design, and different Calibre 11/Chronomatic fashions such because the Heuer Monaco approached the problem with the same philosophy. What units the Fontainebleau aside on this regard is simply how clearly it emphasizes the distinction between the case and dial varieties. The place the unique Monaco strives to mix the world between the dial and the rehaut with steady use of coloration and lengthy horizontal indices, the Fontainebleau’s panda dial colorway and heavy, brightly polished faceted indices appear to rejoice the visible dichotomy right here. The silver foremost dial floor itself options deep horizontal brushing, giving it a distinctly metallic really feel on the wrist and imbuing the floor with a myriad of highlights and lowlights at completely different viewing angles. The choice to echo the truncated oval bezel form by way of the chronograph subdials and the 6 o’clock date window works to provide the design a cohesive, offbeat look, simply because the heavy ribbed texture of the pointed baton handset well harmonizes with the brushed silver dial floor.
After all, the Calibre 11/Chronomatic computerized chronograph motion contained in the Hamilton Fontainebleau wants no introduction. This stays one of the vital traditionally vital chronograph actions of all time, however it additionally helps to clarify the rarity of the Fontainebleau at this time. Merely put, over the greater than 50 years for the reason that introduction of this computerized chronograph motion, collectors and watchmakers keen to maintain pricier Heuer and Breitling examples working would typically salvage Hamilton fashions geared up with the motion for components – together with the Fontainebleau. Anybody who has seen the glut of Fontainebleau instances and dials out there on the market on-line with out actions through the years can attest to this, however this decades-long technique of cannibalization has quietly made the Fontainebleau one of many rarer examples of the primary era of Calibre 11/Chronomatic chronographs. Coupled with decrease gross sales numbers throughout its preliminary run (many of those fashions could be bought with re-branded dials in later years in a push to alleviate extra stock), the Fontainebleau is an intriguing possibility for forward-thinking collectors.
This specific Hamilton Fontainebleau is fitted with a period-correct, new old-stock bracelet from NSA, that includes a singular set of black heart hyperlinks. Though this bracelet was by no means supplied by Hamilton, this semigloss black and brushed metal two-tone sample well echoes the panda dial structure, whereas its tapering kind flows surprisingly nicely into the oval strains of the case physique.
All in all, the Hamilton Fontainebleau is an impressively charismatic piece of avant-garde Area Age watchmaking which may nicely stand alongside a number of the icons of this wild, typically missed period of commercial design. It could be removed from one of the best identified or essentially the most precious of the Calibre 11/Chronomatic household of timepieces, however it carries a dramatic, funky retro-futuristic imaginative and prescient of its personal which may nicely encourage us all to broaden our horizons and make a journey again to when the long run was stylized and optimistic.
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